Legalisation is an administrative act by which a foreign public document is validated, verifying the authenticity of the signature on the document and the quality in which the signatory has acted.

When a document is "legalised", its use in another country is validated. So, depending on the country in which you submit that document, you must legalize it as appropriate. You can only legalize documents that are collected by public offices.

Legalizing a document means:

  • That the document has been issued by a competent and expert authority;
  • That the structure of the document is correct;
  • That the stamp and signature on the document are correct;

Unless there is a legal instrument establishing an exemption from that obligation, all foreign public documents must be legalized in order to be valid in Spain, and all Spanish public documents must be legalized in order to be valid abroad.

Most countries agree on the process of "legalizing" a specific document, while others have established that they do not need any specific legalization in order to consider others' documents "valid.

When is legalization not required?

Due to the growing number of exchanges between countries, many of them — including Spain — have signed agreements to facilitate these procedures for their citizens.

The most notable agreement currently in force is the 12th Hague Convention of 5 October 1961, which abolishes the requirement for legalisation of foreign public documents, better known as the Apostille Convention.

Many countries have acceded to this treaty, which simplifies procedures for senders and receivers. The legal text of the agreement states that between Member States legalisation is not necessary for the mutual recognition of documents, although a stamp or an apostille is required. This is the full list of countries that have signed the agreement.

In addition, there are other agreements that exempt certain documents from legalisation (Vienna Convey, London Convey, Athens Convey or the exchange of notes with the USSR).

Normally it is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of each country that is responsible for putting the stamp of the Hague Apostille on the document.

What documents can be legalized?

Both documents can be legalized: 

  • The originals as well as the authentic copies issued by the Public Administration Authorities;
  • Authentic copies of a document, issued by a public authority;
  • Copies authenticated by a Notary Public, upon exhibition of the original;

In case you need to legalize a document to make it valid in Spain, and your country has not signed the Hague Convention, you must take the document to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the country where the document comes from. Once you have done this, you must present it to the Spanish Consulate in that same country. The document will then be valid for presentation in Spain.

How can I speed up the application process of my nationality?

The current nationality law -valid since 2015- allows applicants to file an appeal one year after the application date. Appealing means suing the government in court, so you will need a lawyer and a solicitor to do this.

In Spain, the lawyer defends you, and the solicitor represents you in court. You do not need to go to court, because the whole process is in writing. Once the application for review has been submitted, the court will ask the government to send the whole file to the court.

Once this is done, when the file is already in court, the entire lawsuit must be filed. At this point the government has two options: ask the applicant to submit more documentation (usually a report of immigration movement and proof of work), or give a positive ruling to the case.

Once the person submits the requested documentation, the government can either resolve, or respond to the lawsuit. If you respond to the complaint, the process may result in a court judgment in which the judge will decide whether to win the case or not.

The person who loses must bear the cost of the process, which would be between 1,500 and 2,000 euros.

We have an impressive record of success in this type of appeal: it takes an average of 4 months to resolve nationality cases.

If they ask for more documentation, the average resolution time would be 6 to 8 months. In both cases, the processing time is considerably reduced by using this legal instrument.

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